White wolves of summer

Have you ever been seized by the sudden urge to don a suit of plate armour and bludgeon other armoured people with a mace? Perhaps your answer is a hearty “Yes!” but it certainly wasn’t for Land Pearson, at least not before he strapped on the armour. After, however, it was a different story entirely.

Pearson is one of the founders of the Company of the White Wolf, Whitehorse’s own full-contact medieval combat company. He and his co-founders had their interest piqued by a presentation at the first Yukcomicon, in 2014, by José Martinez-Amoedo, a fighter who lives in Mayo and competes on an international level for Spain. Martinez-Amoedo was looking for more fighters to train with in the North, so Pearson and a group of others decided to try it out.

“The first time I got fully into armour, I was fully prepared to be like, ‘Nope, this is not for me,’ because I never did any combat sports growing up,” said Pearson. “I was a biathlete, a skier and a runner, but I had never had exposure to [combat] at all, and instead I was like, ‘This is amazing, I want to do more of it.’”

The emphasis of this practice is indeed on training and combat—while efforts are made to remain historically accurate (most armour is created in the style of the 14th – 16th centuries), there is no role-playing or storylines to follow, so it is not to be confused with live-action role-playing (LARPing). Instead, participants focus on strength and technique training, battle formations and the proper use of weapons.

At present, the Company of the White Wolf has about 35 members, and they meet twice a week.“During the week [we do] a strength workout and technique work, fighting a stationary target, working on striking, then we’ll get into soft kit (it’s a mix of hockey armour), and we’ll do some practice there,” said Pearson, describing a standard practice regimen.

“Every few practices, we’ll get fully into armour and actually do full drills and actual duels and group fights … things like that.” He assures those interested that injuries, which might be expected in full-contact sport, actually occur much less frequently than in more common sports like hockey or football.

Medieval combat is practised worldwide, with championships of varying sizes held in nearly every country. At the time of this interview, the Company of the White Wolf had just returned from a European campaign that saw them compete in Italy, for Battle of the Nations; and Scotland, for World Championships. Closer to home, the company hosts their own tournament in Whitehorse on the Canada Day weekend, which has attracted companies from Alberta, the States and potentially Québec.

The Canada Day weekend tournament is open for public viewing, and Pearson encourages all who are interested to check it out.“We normally walk in the Canada Day parade, and we hand out flyers to invite people to come up and check it out,” he said.

“[The tournament] takes place at the Grey Mountain Biathlon Range, which is still pretty close to town, but we’re out in the woods, so that helps with the suspension of belief that you’re out in a [more medieval] setting; we’ll have tents and stuff set up, so it’s more historical.”

The public is also more than welcome to drop by the company’s practices—Pearson emphasizes that this sport is not just for extreme fighters, gamers or history buffs. The benefits of medieval combat extend far beyond simple strength or combat techniques, and are beneficial to any and everyone.

“What’s really awesome about our club is that a lot of the people that have started with it haven’t really done a lot of sport before, even at all,” Pearson said. “There are people that were just gamers, and now they’re getting really fit … in that way, it’s a new avenue of active living.”For Pearson, personally, combat training has rapidly improved his health, both mental and physical.

“Before we started this, I had two kids, a ‘dad bod,’ and in the first year I lost 20 pounds, got myself back in shape,” he said, adding, “It’s also just the team camaraderie that you start to build, having that group of friends to do things with is awesome—being able to travel the world and face challenges.”

The Company of the White Wolf have a busy summer season coming up. After the Canada Day weekend Tournament, they will be headed to a medieval fair in Alberta that hosts one of the larger Western Canadian competitions. The Company will be returning for their third time to defend their title as one of the strongest clubs in the West. They also have hopes of competing in Russia this winter, at one of the most challenging events in the world.

For now, they will be practising hard, and they hope that the public will come to view the tournament and maybe even participate in a practice. “Medieval combat is a lot of fun,” said Pearson in closing. “We encourage anyone to stop by our practices and check it out; they’re totally open and we’re very welcoming.”

The Grand Northern Tournament is from June 30–July 2, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit www.whitewolves.org or the Company of the White Wolf Facebook page for more info.

Full metal and padded jacket

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